Casual elegance. These two words sum up the dining experience at Julington Creek Fish Camp.
The Mandarin area restaurant is the newest addition to a growing network of “fish-camps” – including Palm Valley and North Beach eateries – run by Jacksonville old guard restaurateurs Ben and Liza Groshell. Each has a distinct yet similar character, and each features an abundance of impeccably fresh, simply prepared fish and seafood. The Groshells also operate Marker 32, an award-winning fine dining restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway near Jacksonville Beach.
Despite the name, disabuse yourself of the notion that these are “old Florida” style fish camps. Sure, the décor draws inspiration from the sea: The dining room at Julington Creek is awash in shades of dusky blue, pale sunny yellow and white. A lively dining crowd is ensconced in solid dark wood dining tables and booths. A row of windows flood the dining room with light while offering a commanding view of the marina on Julington Creek. Casually clad diners sip cocktails and share appetizers, enjoying the sunset views from the outdoor patio deck. The summer heat is tamed by misting fans.
For starters, you might go classic fish camp with raw or steamed oysters, peel and eat shrimp, fresh made ceviche, or maybe some tender Abaco conch fritters served with a tart and creamy lemon aioli, or swim up market with some grilled octopus and white bean salad, fried New England clam bel- lies, or Mussels Marinière.
At lunch, a shrimp and avocado salad is as good looking as it is good for you. Southern regional favorites such as smoked fish spread, and fried gator tail with Cowgill’s datil pepper aioli are represented along with their northern counterparts, fried New England clam bellies and sweet blue crab cakes.
A roast cod filet with brown butter, garlic and lemon is plated with parsley potatoes and steamed vegetables in a straightforward presentation. Mayport shrimp and creamy grits are napped with a white wine butter sauce, which accentuates the sweet flavor of the shrimp in a way that classic redeye gravy can’t. Seared yellow fin tuna is plated with an Asian salad with sesame dressing.
Fried chicken, steaks and a grilled pork chop with bacon molasses BBQ, new potatoes and turnip slaw round out the non-seafood category here. A full bar, plus ample wine and beer selections make for an enjoyable evening of socializing with friends.
The training and teamwork on display at each of the Groshell’s fish camps speaks volumes about their organization. The culinary team is passionate about their work, and the friendly and knowledgeable wait-staff strive to ensure your experience exceeds expectations. On a recent visit, Director of Restaurant Operations Eric Williams shared the plan to add fish camp locations at a steady pace, while ensuring each is delivering the excellent service, great food and casually elegant ambience that has become the brand’s hallmark.
For hours and reservations: www.julingtoncreekfishcamp.com
Article written by Nancy White